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Indonesia court rejects Frenchman's death row appeal

French citizen Serge Atlaoui is one step closer to execution for drug offenses after his last-ditch clemency appeal was denied. Paris had threatened a diplomatic reaction and economic fallout if Atlaoui was put to death.

Indonesia's president had already rejected clemency for Serge Atlaoui, whose legal appeal against that decision was thrown out on Monday. The Jakarta court decided not to grand clemency, supporting President Joko Widodo's tough stance on the drug convict.

"We reject the challenge by the challenger," presiding judge Ujang Abdullah told the court. "Granting clemency is the president's prerogative and therefore the decision cannot be challenged at the State Administrative Court."

The clemency plea is typically the last chance for a death row inmate to avoid execution by a firing squad.

Atlaoui was due to be put to death in late April, alongside two Australians, a Brazilian and four Nigerians who were

executed for drug smuggling

. However, Atlaoui was granted a last-minute reprieve over his appeal.

Atlaoui, who is a professional welder, was arrested in a secret ecstasy factory outside Jakarta in 2005. Authorities claim he was working as a "chemist" at the drugs lab.

The Frenchman has maintained his innocence, claiming that he was installing machinery in what he believed to be an acrylics plant.

Atlaoui was put on death row by Indonesia's Supreme Court, although his initial sentence had been life in prison.

Waiting for the end of Ramadan

Paris is pressuring Jakarta to spare Atlaoui's life, warning of economic and diplomatic consequences if he is executed; Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued a weekend appeal pointing to "serious dysfunction" in the Indonesian legal system in Atlaoui's case.

On Monday, Tony Spontana, a spokesman at the public prosecutors' office, welcomed the latest court decision, but said the execution would not happen before the end of holy fasting month of Ramadan. The Muslim holiday ends on July 17 in Indonesia.

"This is good news for us, but we will not do anything related with his case during Ramadan," Spontana said.

Earlier, officials claimed that the challenge against a refusal of clemency was the final legal option left for Atlaoui.

However, Atlaoui's lawyer said Monday that the legal team would continue to look for other options.

Pressure from abroad

Jakarta's decision to go ahead with the death sentence case for the group of foreign citizens in April provoked international condemnation, both from

foreign governments and from the United Nations

. Amnesty International also decried the move, claiming that the prisoners had been killed before exhausting all of the legal options.

Australia recalled its ambassador to Jakarta, following the execution two of its citizens, who had been convicted for being ringleaders of a drug-smuggling ring.

At the same time, President Joko Widodo is sticking to his tough stance against traffickers, describing Indonesia's battle with drug use as a national emergency. Indonesian anti-drug laws are among the toughest in the world.

dj/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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